Microsoft plans to add Call of Duty to Xbox Game Pass if it acquires Activision Blizzard, but UK regulators say it might be harmful.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer outlined Microsoft’s intentions in a blog post. Microsoft plans to add Activison’s key gaming series to Xbox Game Pass, he said.
Activision Blizzard’s popular games, including Overwatch, Diablo, and Call of Duty, will be available on Game Pass, said Spencer. By giving players additional value, we intend to expand Game Pass to mobile phones and other devices.
Microsoft promised to offer “as many Activision Blizzard games as it could” to Game Pass. Spencer’s comments reinforces that idea and suggests adding Activision’s games to Game Pass will boost player choice.
Game Pass makes gaming affordable and helps people pick their next favorite game “”Spencer,” “Game Pass allows developers to reach more players.
He also reaffirmed Microsoft’s commitment to releasing the same Call of Duty version on PlayStation as elsewhere. Fans fear Microsoft may make the series Xbox-exclusive after acquiring Bethesda last year.
Spencer doesn’t say whether other Activation games will be cross-platform. Diablo, Overwatch, and other IPs could be added to Xbox Game Pass, but they could stay off PlayStation systems.
Something with a Tough Exterior
Call of Duty’s possible move to Game Pass has fans excited. If it goes forward, Game Pass subscribers could play the massive franchise at their leisure and each new entry at launch for free.
Spencer’s comments about player choice follow a report by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which raises concerns. The buyout may harm the industry and consumers.
The CMA is concerned that Microsoft, with its strong position in gaming consoles, operating systems, and cloud infrastructure, could harm consumers by impeding Sony’s ability to compete.
Microsoft’s impressive reach across the gaming and tech industries makes the merger especially worrisome. Microsoft dominates console gaming with the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, gaming streaming with Xbox Cloud Gaming, and PC operating systems with Windows 10 and 11.
Microsoft’s assets give it an advantage over rivals, especially in streaming. It can stream games to Windows PCs without paying expensive licencing fees, design new games and services using its heavyweight studios, and take advantage of the huge Xbox playerbase. It says Microsoft has “an unmatched advantage over current and potential cloud gaming providers.”
This could lead to increased cloud gaming service concentration or the market “tipping” to Microsoft, denying consumers the benefits of competition between new and emerging providers.
The regulator questioned Call of Duty’s Xbox exclusivity despite Microsoft’s assurances. Microsoft may maintain the series cross-platform or install subtler access limitations on other systems. Microsoft could postpone Call of Duty software on PlayStation consoles or raise game prices. This hurts Sony’s financial margins and PlayStation players who don’t want to join the Xbox environment.
Microsoft may also acquire more Activision Blizzard games. Overwatch 2 will come for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC on October 4. Spencer says it’ll go to Game Pass, although it’s unclear what that means for a multi-platform game.
The transaction may not be consummated until the problems are worked out. The CMA will undertake a “in-depth Phase 2 examination” based on its findings, while US and other regulators have yet to review the merger, let alone approve it.